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Fire victim identified, cause unknown

The victim of the raging fire that tore through a Wyoming Avenue house late Tuesday was identified as Larry Brown, 58.

Authorities, meanwhile, continued Wednesday to sift through the ruins for what triggered the blaze, which destroyed two homes.

Brown, who was on oxygen and used a wheelchair, was in the rear of 480 Wyoming as the fire broke out shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Brown's daughter, the only other person in the house at the time of the fire, attempted to rescue her father but was chased out a window by intense flames.

"The building was pretty much completely [engulfed] when we arrived," said Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. "There was a report of a person trapped. Firefighters initially attempted to make entry but were not able to reach the victim."

Fire was pouring from every side of the building when firefighters first arrived. The initial alarm sounded at 10:37 p.m. and the second, at 10:45.

Two adults were chased from a neighboring home at 482 Wyoming after flames from 480 spread there. They were not injured.

Neighbors reported hearing an explosion, which authorities believe may have been the victim's oxygen tank.

"I was cooking in the kitchen and [my daughter] heard the explosion," said Winifred Gainer of Wyoming Avenue, who lives across the street from the fire scene. "I've never been this close to a fire before. It was very exciting and very scary."

Gainer said that although she didn't know the family at 480 Wyoming, she noticed moving trucks and people moving items from the house over the last few days.

A for-sale sign was posted in front of the home at the time of the fire. The real estate agent for the property -- Marcie A. Schnittker of MJ Peterson Real Estate -- confirmed Wednesday that a contract had been signed to purchase the home last week, but the deal had yet to close.

Buffalo homicide detectives investigated along with the Buffalo Fire Marshal's Office.

"There's preliminary indication that foul play is not involved in the cause of the fire," Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo police spokesman, said Wednesday night. "Homicide is routinely called to deaths of this nature, especially if it's a fire."

The victim's daughter and the wife, who arrived at the fire scene later, were taken to Erie County Medical Center for evaluation.

Damage to 480 and 482 Wyoming was estimated at $90,000 each. Authorities called the homes total losses.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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